GarCo blunders by drilling water wells

Garfield County mistakenly drilled water wells without legal authority in attempting to do groundwater monitoring in an area of natural gas development south of Silt, County Commissioner John Martin says.

Martin said county commissioners will discuss today how to proceed with the groundwater monitoring effort, which also prompted concerns from residents because they weren’t notified in advance about the drilling.

The county is working to install the wells to gather baseline water quality data to help monitor possible impacts from energy development.

Martin said the situation arose because, while residents want the monitoring, they don’t want the wells on their property unless the county pays them in perpetuity.

County oil and gas liaison Judy Jordan tried to get around that hurdle by arranging for wells to be drilled on county roadway easements, Martin said.

However, the county later realized its surface easement rights don’t include the right to drill into the subsurface, Martin said.

Jordan couldn’t be reached for comment.

Martin said he didn’t know how many wells were drilled, but it was more than one. He also didn’t know how much has been spent on the wells, but said commissioners “will get an accounting.”

The program is being paid for out of the county’s taxpayer-generated general fund.

David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, called the missteps “not insignificant.”

“If an (energy) operator moved forward in drilling with the same approach and misunderstandings, the media response would likely be tremendous,” he said.

He said the blunders illustrate his group’s long-held contention that “most counties are ill-equipped to regulate our sector with the same expertise and consistency” as state oil and gas regulators.

Kelly Protz, who lives on Chipperfield Lane, said he first became aware of the county’s drilling plans near his property when he noticed the land had been leveled off on a right-of-way.

Protz said he has talked to Jordan, and the county has acknowledged it could have done a better job with notification. But he said he appreciates the county’s efforts to install water monitoring wells where gas development is occurring.

“I think it’s important to have those wells out there with potentially what’s going on. To me it’s a good thing,” he said.

Martin said he thinks the county will find a way to work through the obstacles and get the groundwater monitoring wells in place.


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